Compelled by the stories of innocent businesses being harmed by false patent claims, the state Senate has approved this year's patent-trolling legislation (SB 258). Now it’s up to the state House to approve the measure for SB 258 to make its way to the governor's desk for his signing.

SB 258 grants the Connecticut attorney general certain powers to ward off bad-faith patent infringement claims. The purpose of SB 258 is to discourage the practice of patent trolling, in which individuals or groups try to blackmail companies under the false pretenses of patent infringement in order to coerce settlement claims from those victims.

CBIA has led a coalition of interested businesses and organizations aimed at improving and strengthening the bill while ensuring that valid patent claims continue to be enforceable.

The Senate agreed with the coalition’s suggestions, so that the proposal now:

  • Allows victims of improper patent trolling claims to be able to prove either deception or vagueness in the claims. Proving deception is a much higher standard than vagueness, and victims of patent trolls often face claims that are vague. Allowing trolling victims to prove vagueness or deception will help protect.
  • Clarifies that court-ordered damages are only available to victims of patent trolls, and not also to patent trolls.
  • Ensures that valid patent holders will not be accidentally harmed as a result of the legislation and that valid patents will be protected, not compromised, as a result of the bill.

Two recent cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court may have an impact in the practice of patent trolling. The cases, known as Octane Fitness, LLC v. Icon Health & Fitness, Inc. and Highmark Inc. v. Allcare Health Management Systems, Inc., were argued before the high court at the end of February and the decisions have just been released. Octane Fitness dealt with the awarding of fees in patent cases, and Highmark pertained to federal court case review standards.

According to at least one patent attorney, these cases should help legitimate companies that are victimized by patent trolls. Taken together, says Jeanne Gills, a partner at Foley & Lardner law firm in Chicago, the rulings will "benefit more the [victims of patent trolling abuse] ... in [patent infringement] cases rather than the [patent troll]."

And while these cases do appear to go some way toward protecting these victims, passage of SB 258 would go even further to discourage the practice altogether.

For more information, email Eric George.